What You'll Learn
  • The Crunch is designed to capture a unilateral concession
  • Although universally used, when overused or used inappropriately the Crunch can damage a relationship
  • Crunching works in Exchange and Bargain Stages
  • Never respond to a Crunch with a concession

A simple but very popular and universal Probe is known as the "Crunch," or the "tactical probe." A Crunch is a response to an offer that does not come in the form of a counter offer. Crunches range from subtle and gentle, to direct and aggressive. Different cultures and regions often have unique Crunches. The Crunch is unique among Probes because it is designed to have a high probability of getting the other side to give a unilateral concession. Most Probes, on the other hand, are designed to elicit information that will enable both sides to find a solution that addresses their mutual interests.

  • A sample list of popular Crunches:
  • What flexibility do you have?
  • That's not what we expected.
  • I just can't get there.
  • There must be another way.
  • Using silence for 5-7 seconds as a Crunch (more can be perceived as confrontational)

Uses of the Crunch

Like the Probe, the Crunch can be used throughout the negotiation process but is most often used in the Exchange and Bargain Stages. As one type of Probe, the Crunch has several uses:

  • Encouragement for more discussion
  • Discouragement of ideas or options
  • A maneuver to get the other side to move off a position
  • A request for a free concession
  • An objection to an offer
  • Ultimately to generate creativity

Guidelines for using the Crunch

Select a Crunch that

  • Fits your own style
  • Is indicative of where you are relative to your goal
  • Is not offensive to the other party
  • Respects the relationship and culture, whether with a colleague, customer, boss, vendor, opposing counsel, etc.
  • Is consistent with the negotiation situation, whether competitive or cooperative
  • Sparingly is more effective

Once you Crunch

  • Give the other party an opportunity to respond
  • If it works, Crunch again

What if you are on the receiving end of a Crunch?

Never respond to a Crunch with a concession – otherwise it is considered a unilateral concession. Unilateral concessions erode your credibility. Instead, you should challenge all Crunches with an equally aggressive or greater Counter-crunch:

  • What can you work with?
  • What do you need?
  • What fits in your budget?
  • What are you authorized to approve?
  • Give me something I can take back.
  • What kind of flexibility are you looking for?

See more on recognizing and defending against the Crunch and The Crunch Tip Sheet.

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